Metcalf Middle School and M.W. Savage and Sioux Trail elementary schools would close at the end of the school year under a proposal presented to Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District leaders Thursday.
Discussion about closing schools to stem revenue loss caused by falling enrollment began months ago, but Thursday’s was the first proposal identifying specific schools.
Dozens of teachers left the meeting as soon as the schools were named. Several hugged and wiped tears from their faces in the hallway outside the board meeting.
The Board of Education plans to make its final decision on the closures next month.
“This is difficult and essential work,” Board Chairwoman Abigail Alt said. “For the sustainability and viability of our educational system, the board must consider school closures to make sure we deliver on our mission.”
Dr. Roger Worner, an expert on facility planning and district consultant, presented the proposal to the Board of Education. Schools excluded from a the recommendation might come back into play before officials reach a decision, Alt said.
Metcalf, an approximately 163,000-square-foot school in Burnsville built in 1966, enrolled 609 students last year, making it the oldest of the three middle schools and the one with the lowest enrollment.
M.W. Savage, an approximately 83,000-square-foot school in downtown Savage built in 1950, enrolled 328 students last year. The school was selected because it is one of the oldest, least modern and least flexible school space in addition to having low enrollment, Worner said.
Sioux Trail Elementary, an approximately 76,000-square-foot school built in 1966, enrolled 303 students last year and was also chosen because of low capacity and enrollment.
A public hearing required by state law is scheduled for Dec. 4, and a final vote on the plans is set for Dec. 12.
Worner’s facilities review, which was commissioned in April and completed in July, recommended officials close three schools by the end of the school year and make several other changes to school operations to save money.
The review found eight schools operate significantly under capacity when compared to state standards.
Around 93% of school faculty members and 68% of community members surveyed at a series of public meetings last month said the district has probable cause to close one or more schools.
The report also recommended the district sell the Diamondhead Education Center, but officials decided last month to focus on finalizing a plan for the schools before winter break and further discuss the education center in January.
The district saw its lowest enrollment figure in a decade with 8,334 students last year, and the district projects the student count will drop to around 7,600 by 2023.
Last year, over 2,000 district students open-enrolled out of the district, over 800 students attended non-public schools, and 460 attended charter schools.
The district is facing an estimated $5.5 million in budget cuts for 2020-2021. District officials have said it’s too early to know how much the new voter-approved operating levy, expected to generate an additional $1.7 annually, will change that figure.